Plans by EDF to build new nuclear reactors in Britain came under fresh scrutiny yesterday after it admitted finding serious quality control failings that could affect the safety of a prototype project in France. The French state-controlled energy group, which is leading construction of the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, said that defects in the welding in pipework of the European pressurised reactor it is building at Flamanville in Normandy threatened to further delay the project and to increase its costs. It said that the welding had been signed off by contractors, but since then it had detected “quality deviations” that had forced it to alert the French nuclear regulator to what it called a “significant event”. It comes weeks after Britain’s nuclear regulator raised concerns about substandard quality control checks on EDF’s supply chain for Hinkley Point, warning, too, that improvements were needed to ensure safe construction. The company has insisted that it has learnt the lessons of Flamanville and EPR projects elsewhere in the world, which have been beset by construction problems. However, 25 years after French engineers began working on the EPR, they have yet to get one running. Flamanville was due to start up in 2012 at a cost of €3.3 billion. EDF now hopes to switch it on next year and says that the reactor will cost €10.5 billion, though these targets could slip further in light of the latest setback. EDF found issues with the welding at Flamanville in February, but at that stage did not expect them to cause delays. It said that it was now carrying out additional checks and had ordered a report into the causes and nature of the problems to determine what corrective action was needed. Flamanville has faced several setbacks, the most serious of which was the discovery that the reactor vessel was weaker than planned because of an excess carbon content. A raft of quality control failings at the Creusot Forge plant that made the vessel were found, including falsified documents. This triggered the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s decision to review the Hinkley Point supply chain, leading to a critical report last month. Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said: “The reactor destined for Hinkley Point was supposed to be cooking turkeys by Christmas 2017. As yet more construction flaws are revealed at its sister plant under construction in France, it’s starting to look like the only turkey the EPR reactor design is going to cook is EDF.” In March the Office for Nuclear Regulation quietly published a worrying report setting out serious concerns about the quality controls on Hinkley Point’s supply chain. It found that “further work is required to ensure adequate quality management system arrangements are consistently embedded across the wider project”. The review was triggered by the discovery that records had been falsified at Areva’s Creusot Forge facility in France, a key supplier to Hinkley Point and to the Flamanville prototype in France. Parts of the pressure vessel that the Creusot Forge made for Flamanville were found to be substandard, which could yet affect the functioning of the plant, and a pressure vessel destined for Hinkley Point was scrapped.
Times 11th April 2018 read more »
EDF Energy has warned that a flagship nuclear power station it is building in France could run further behind schedule and over budget, after it detected faults at the €10.5bn ( £9.2bn) plant. The French state-owned firm said inspections last month had uncovered problems with welding on pipes at the Flamanville plant in north-west France. The company said that it had discovered “quality deviations” on 150 welds in a system used to transport steam to turbines used for electricity generation. Stephen Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich said: “If remedial work is needed, this puts in further doubt whether Flamanville can be in commercial operation [as previously planned].” ASN warned earlier this year that the start-up schedule for Flamanville was tight. Paul Dorfman, of the Energy Institute at University College London, said the problems did not bode well for Hinkley Point C, which is due to come online in 2025. “If they can’t build their own reactor in France, where can they build it? This seems counter to their claims that they are learning from their mistakes and Hinkley won’t be a repeat.”
Guardian 10th April 2018 read more »
An ‘urgent information briefing’ on the United Kingdom’s proposed expansion of its nuclear energy programme is to take place in Kilkenny on Thursday. The event will take place at the Newpark Hotel at 7.30pm, facilitated by the Kilkenny Public Participation Network. Of particular relevance to Ireland is the construction of a new power plant at Hinkley Point, located some 150 miles from the Irish coast. A public consultation process regarding this project closes on April 17. At last week’s meeting of the Piltown Municipal District, Cllr Tomás Breathnach flagged the matter of the nuclear power station, and noted the local authority only had until April 17 to make a submission. The Labour Party councillor said the council should make use of the process ‘while it’s there’.
Kilkenny People 9th April 2018 read more »